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Dr. Krista Nottage Is Top Award Winner
Friday, March 2nd, 2012 (Nassau, Bahamas) - Natalie Hernandez is a truly extraordinary young woman. In February 2012, Natalie visited Phnom Pehn, Cambodia as a volunteer student educator for Operation Smile, an international medical charity that has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities around the world.
Bahamians are watching a tsunami of chronic non-communicable diseases sweep through its population as coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease has become the number one cause of death in Bahamians. And unless people decide to act and change their way...
I rise on behalf of the Ministry of Health to make my contribution to this 2010/2011 budget presentation and thank the great constituency of Killarney for the opportunity to present this, my third health budget to this honorable chamber.
I wish to congratulate the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, for his courage in presenting a Budget that is reflective of the realities of the national economic situation and that refused to defer difficult decisions for future generation of leaders.
Jerome Smith was walking home from a gas station four years ago when a man bashed his head in with a rock, leaving the then 20-year-old clinging to life. It was a day Smith recalls vividly. He said he and a female relative were walking home when a man started shouting jeers at her.go," he said.
No one ever thinks they will develop cancer. Cassandra Lewis-Moore was one of those people. The 34-year-old thought there was a possibility she would get diabetes as it'runs'in her family, but she never thought cancer would happen to her. But during the eighth month of pregnancy with her first child in October 2010, she felt a huge lump in one of her breasts. She knew something was wrong. She sought medical attention.
"It was very large, and it shouldn't have been there,"recalled Lewis-Moore."I'd never felt anything like that before. It didn't hurt, but it was very hard and very big. But because the breasts were so large you couldn't see it."
Because she was pregnant, her doctor ordered an ultrasound of the breast and concluded it was breast milk that would go away once she started breastfeeding. Lewis-Moore, a newlywed and her husband, Kevin welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Andreus, who they call"KJ"into the family. In the months after her son's birth, she noticed her breast size decreasing, but the lump getting bigger and protruding through the skin and not disappearing like the doctor had told her it would. It had started to hurt. It was a pain she chalked up to tenderness from breastfeeding. That was until the day she was playing with a then crawling"KJ"and like all babies do, he kneed her in the breast. The pain was excruciating. She remembers actually pushing her baby away from her so suddenly that she scared him. She thought about what the doctors had told her, and massaged her breast and put hot towels on it to help dissolve the milk. But it was the day that she took a"me day"in January 2011, and headed to the spa for a massage. As the therapist worked on her back, she said it was so painful she could not complete the therapy. That pain sent her back to her doctor.
Her doctor requested a mammogram. The result showed hardened milk. Her doctor requested a lumpectomy to remove the hardened mass, which was done in March 2011. The mass was tested and the result returned as Stage 2 breast cancer. The cancer cells were actually inside the hardened breast milk.
FRIGHT TAKES HOLD
Lewis-Moore was scared--not because it had taken so long to determine she had breast cancer--she was mad because she wondered what would happen to her family after she'd waited so long to get married and have a child, and then to be diagnosed with cancer while still a newlywed and a new mother.
"In my 20s, it was all about education and my career--so in my 30s, it was about getting married. And I'm the only girl and the last child in my family, so it was a big thing[for me to get married and have a child], and to be told this[that I had cancer]. I thought, what was going to happen to my family?"
Lewis-Moore began her battle with the deadly cancer cells. She celebrated her baby's first birthday one week before she began chemotherapy treatment. And she did her best to keep her energy up over the months of treatment for her child, who was too young to understand that his mom was sick.
"He just knows one day mommy had hair that he used to pull,"says Lewis-Moore who boldly sports a bald head no hair caps for her."The tough part was when we were playing one day and I had already started chemo, and he pulled on my hair, and a whole clump came out in his hand and fell on his face. He just dropped it and ran. He was scared. But other than that, mommy is still mommy. Sometimes, she can still play; sometimes, she can't because she's very tired."
She's finished with chemo, but will have to take additional treatment because she was diagnosed as HER2-positive. This is a diagnosis for people who have a protein called human epidermal growth factor that promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positivebreast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. They're also less responsive to hormone treatment. However, treatments that specifically target HER2 are very effective.
"I'm going to have to do additional treatments, but they're not as severe as the chemo, and they want me to do radiation, and we're still setting that up."
The road to survivor isn't quite finished yet, but Lewis-Moore begs to differ. "I had a lump--the cancer was there, and they took the lump out, and the cancer hadn't spread."
Even though chemo was a downside, Lewis-Moore has come out on the other side with a friend--a 31-year-old who had to have an immediate double mastectomy because her cancer was spreading like wildfire.
"Chemo was rough; I will not lie,"she says."It is not rough for everyone, but for those who have the illnesses after the chemo, make sure you have a strong support system at home and at work."
BRINGING SEXY BACK
She is now on a slow road to bringing sexy back. She's walking at least 20 minutes a day as recommended by her doctor, and looking forward to the fabulous new breasts she will soon be getting. She had a partial mastectomy on one breast, but to put safety measures in place for her future, she wants to have a double mastectomy then get those"fabulous new breasts"with which will come a tummy tuck. The surgery she will have done, a TRAM Flap Breast Reconstruction, which is the gold standard in breast construction, removes some of her stomach skin and fat, to reconstruct her breasts and fill them in.
As she battled the disease, she admits that she was not always as confident as she is today and says at one point, she really stopped trying and didn't bother with anything. But after a month or two, she said to hell with it--that she was going to live her life and have fun. She was going to dress up and go out and rock her bald head.
When she first started to lose her hair, which was natural, her cousin took her to his barber and she got a low haircut. The hair continued to come out, so she told her husband to shave off the rest. Right after she did that, Lewis-Moore, who works for BAF Financial and Insurance Bahamas Ltd., the coordinators behind Denim Day in the country for 14 years in raising monies for a cure, says she had to attend a company awards ceremony to which she wore a head-wrap. For a week she wore different head-wraps until she was hit by a hot flash at work. All she wanted to do was get naked, but she couldn't at work. The best thing for her to do was remove the head-wrap. That was the last day she wore one.
Removing the head-wrap liberated her and gave her confidence.
"I had another coworker who had breast cancer and her advice to me was to just wear makeup, but I couldn't wear that because I sweat too much, so I would just draw on my eyebrows if I remembered in the mornings. One morning, I woke up, was washing my face, looked in the mirror and said,"By damn, I don't have any eyebrows, eyelashes, nothing. So some days, I had eyebrowsâEUR¦some days, I didn't and I put on my lip-gloss, put on my earrings and was out the door."
The cancer survivor is excited for her future. And she says cancer does not have to be a death sentence. She says women need to take their health seriously and check things out because they know their bodies, and know when something is wrong. She encourages them to get bumps or moles that they hadn't seen before checked out.
For anyone who has been newly diagnosed with breast cancer or will be diagnosed in the future, Lewis-Moore says she has learned that you need to have a strong support system at home and at work, both of which she had.
Through her battle, Lewis-Moore was thankful for the support she received from her husband, and also thankful that he had a group of friends with wives, sisters or mothers that had breast cancer that he could talk to.
"It was tough, because being a newlywed and fairly young, and I didn't have urges. It just wasn't there. I was miserable in the sense that I did not want to be bothered and I did not want to be here."
But she says her husband's support, as well as that of her family--her mother traveled from Grand Bahama to stay with them for six months--and her aunts and cousins helped by keeping the baby some days and make certain she was okay, especially after days when she endured eight-hour chemotherapy sessions, helped her through the rough times. And her co-workers that knew what she was going through were helpful and very understanding.
"I never thought cancer would happen to me. I thought maybe I would get diabetes because that runs in my family, but never anything like this,"she says.
Now that ace pitcher Mary 'Cruise' Edgecombe-Sweeting is back on the mound, the YII Shipping Wildcats are sharpening their claws wanting to scrape their way into one of the four playoff spots in the New Providence Softball Association (NPSA).
After two years of watching from the stands, Edgecombe-Sweeting returned on Thursday night. She was on her way to a shut-out victory until Ronda Cooper hit an inside the park grand slam that drove in three runs. The Wildcats would hold off the third inning charge by the Lady Hitmen and won to a tune of 17-5. The win rounded off a perfect night for the softball club, whose men, the YII Shipping Bulldogs defeated Mighty Mitts 10-3. Ken Wood was tagged with the win in that game and Thela Johnson got the loss on the women's side.
"It is feels extremely good. I was just excited to get back there and not to concern about the win," said Edgecombe-Sweeting. "Just to be out there playing was tremendous. My teammates really, really supported me last night (Thursday). It was a lot of unity and togetherness. They were all excited that I was back. The fans showed their love and cheered me. I know that the crowd really missed my presence because everyone was talking about it.
"It was hard watching the team play and the games. I wanted to heal properly. As always your health comes first so it was hard just sitting there at times watching the games, wanting to go out there. Waiting paid off because I didn't want to go out there and not be able to play to my full potential."
Edgecombe-Sweeting was sidelined after a tearing the ligaments in her knee. She underwent two surgeries, one on her foot and the other on her knee. Even though she is able to walk around and play today, she said she's still feeling a little pain especially when she wears hard shoes.
Edgecombe-Sweeting is willing to work through the pain that she is feeling. Not only has she returned to play in the NPSA, but she is trying her hand at the national team as well.
She said: "I've been attending a few national team practices and they have welcomed me back so I will be traveling with the team this November. Basing it on last night's performance I will say that I am not 100 percent and not where I want to be exactly. But I am sure that if I continue to play and work hard I can get back to where I was.
"As far as the Wildcats, we never, ever worry about pennant. Once we hit the playoffs we usually turn it up. We just want to get into the playoffs. We know once we get into the playoffs, the Wildcats will overcome our hard times. We always rise to the occasion and with me back I am sure whoever we play in the playoffs, they too know that we are a force to be reckoned with."
The Wildcats are currently sitting in fourth. The team will return to the field next week against the Proper Care Pool Sharks, the third place team.